A 21st Century Wireless ProsceniumTheatre
Production/Lighting Designer Jeremy Allen Fisher is a veteran RC4 Wireless user. “I started working with RC4 products in 2009 when I worked for the Santa Fe Opera for a summer, and then I started working with them heavily in 2011 when I started working for Theater Memphis. I started with Series 2 and now I’m on Series 3,” he explains. Today, Fisher is at the Tennessee Shakespeare Company and is on the 2.4GHz line of products. Fisher continues: “At Theater Memphis, I had a two channel and two four channel dimmers, DMXpix units, four channel high power dimmer and two DMXio transceivers. Now I have one of the 6 channel DMX6dims, one 6 channel high power dimmer [a DMX6dim-500], one DMXpix and one DMXio transceiver.”
Fisher’s most interesting wireless project took place at Theatre Memphis. He picks up the story: “We made a low rez video wall using two RC4 Wireless DMXpix. I made these 1’ by 4’ wooden boxes; each one had eight rows of WS2812 LED tape in them. I made 15 of those boxes that all connected together to make a proscenium arch all the way around. Using the DMXpix to drive them, I was able to turn that into a low rez video wall and then run animation clips and video clips through the Ion console to get my content onto that to make color effects and things, rather than programming them individually and trying to do it that way.”
The modular system was decorative as well. “The boxes were covered with a plastic film that had images printed on it to give to an Art Deco feel and the boxes lined our proscenium. This film was very cheap and a local sign company printed it for us. It’s typically used in back lit LED signs, which made for nice smooth blending without much loss of output. This system was designed to come apart and rearrange, from show to show, just using different covers. So far, we have used this in 2 other shows. Each box has its own power supply and making it usable and stand alone in any configuration. The total cost — not including the DMXpix — was about $1200 to $1500.” The LED wall was created for their performance of 42nd Street in 2018. “Since we created them, we have used them in a variety of different orientations, including in ‘Hairspray’,” Fisher adds.
Fisher’s RC4 wireless units did more than dim without wires; they saved time. “Over my years at Theatre Memphis, I made a stock of different practicals; I just popped an RC4 unit into them and the unit was good to go. They were all quick rigs with Anderson connectors; all I would have to do is pop a battery in, put and RC4 dimmer on it and away it went. I put in time on the front on end, lamp in room, but when people asked for something like a lamp in the middle of the room, I already had choices for them. I was able to save myself time by having all these tools in my arsenal that I could pull out, pop in an RC4 dimmer into it and then away it went,” he explains.
The RC4 Wireless units are a newer addition to the Tennessee Shakespeare Company. “I only bought them last season, so I haven’t done much with them here yet; I did something simple with some MR16s. It wasn’t anything too fantastically amazing. There was a prop in the middle of the room that we couldn’t get cables to, so I made it wireless. It was a stone altar for Macbeth, and in the stone altar there were reservoirs of blood and the reservoirs were lit with MR16s to help them glow,” the designer notes.
As a veteran RC4 user, Fisher has some wisdom to pass along. “I think a lot of people think wireless unreliable. My RC4 equipment has never given me problems, and when there has been an issue, it’s never been the wireless portion or the product, it’s because I wired something wrong,” he explains. There is also the time factor. “I don’t think people know how much time these products can save you in terms of wiring. When you first look at wireless dimming, it can seem daunting, but you break it down, it can save a lot of time,” Fisher adds.
When there is an issue, RC4’s customer service is based in the US, and ready to help users find solutions. Fisher concludes, “There is nothing like the RC4 Wireless customer service in the entire industry. Nothing.”